By DJ Iri (Mondays from 11-1 AM)
Last fall, I was just about the saddest girl in the world when I realized that I couldn’t make any The xx concert dates.
I was just about the happiest girl in the world when, bumming free wi-fi and heat from a Starbucks because of a Hurricane Sandy induced power outage, I e-stumbled on the news that show had been rescheduled.
I bought that ticket faster than you can say, “Ugh, ticket resellers.”
Fast forward to the last weekend of January. My friend and I trekked to The Electric Factory, which is a pretty cool standing-room-only venue in Philadelphia. Fun fact: it is really a space converted from an old electric factory, and the rectangular brick facade and grungy warehouse windows keep that aesthetic going . Unique look aside, the inside had really great acoustics and we got a nice strong sound throughout the entire show….
…which started with Austra, the opening act. A trio from Toronto, Austra was all about bass-rich pop electronic instrumentation with lead singer Katie Stelmanis layering playful vocals on top. Their music tended towards dark and heavy, even when paired with Stelmanis’s sweet high croon (she is classically trained and during songs her voice erupts into a full operatic warble. Think Florence Welch.) Although her voice was incredibly beautiful, there were a few times when the vocals seemed to drown in the accompaniment. All in all, though, Austra played a good set and got the crowd interested and moving, even when the mood of the music dipped lightly into melancholy.
Then, The xx.
First, their lights show: a deep monochromatic blue or purple that took over the stage, followed by a flood of white, which washed over the audience repeatedly. The lights varied throughout the show and were clearly tailored to the songs.
I already love the way the voices of singer/guitarists Romy Madley-Croft and Oliver Sim sound recorded, especially in relation to each other, but there was another dimension to their voices live; they were as balanced and polished as the album version, but more touching and sensual. Early in the set, Sim spoke into the mic and induced an effect known as the Instant Audible Audience Swoon. If you see The xx live for only one reason, see them for how enchanting Sim’s voice is on stage. The trio played the majority of their most popular tracks from both xx and Coexist, shifting between downtempo numbers and trance-like even more downtempo pieces.
Personal favorites: Intro (xx), Sunset (Coexist) and a tricked out version of Fiction (Coexist).
I came to the venue hoping for a good show with no clear idea in mind of how these two albums I’d grown to adore would translate to live listening. I got what I definitely couldn’t have told you I wanted.
I can’t explain it any better than the friend who accompanied me to the show (her very first!) “I understand why people go see music live now,” she said as we were exiting the Factory. That’s because The xx really delivered.